Deliberate attacks against gay men in Iraq has risen significantly this year at the hands of Iraqi militias and death squads, and authorities in Baghdad are doing nothing to stop the violence, according to a report released Monday by an international human rights organization.
The 67-page report by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) , “‘They Want Us Exterminated’: Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq,” documents a wide-reaching campaign of extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, and torture of gay men that began in early 2009.
The killings began in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, a stronghold of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, and spread to many cities across Iraq. Mahdi Army spokesmen have promoted fears about the “third sex” and the “feminization” of Iraq men, and suggested that militia action was the remedy. Some people told Human Rights Watch that Iraqi security forces have colluded and joined in the killing.
“Iraq’s leaders are supposed to defend all Iraqis, not abandon them to armed agents of hate,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Turning a blind eye to torture and murder threatens the rights and life of every Iraqi.”
Silence and stigma surrounding sexuality and gender in Iraq make placing a precise figure on the number killed almost impossible, but HRW says indications are that hundreds of men may have died.